Celebrating the winners and finalists of the High School Pirates Pitch Competition.
Ten talented student entrepreneur finalists with start-up concepts or fledgling businesses, out of an international field of more than 200 contestants, faced off on November 22 in High School Pirates Pitch, a Shark Tank-style competition sponsored by the Stillman School of Business and its Center for Entrepreneurial Studies of Seton Hall University. Students competed for $50,000 in cash and scholarships. Ian Aepelbacher, an Elmira, NY senior attending Horsehead High School was awarded first place for Sweet Cleats, and Mamaie "Adjo" Evonlah, a Germantown, PA senior attending Northwest High School, came in second place, pitching Jojo's Outstanding Jojoba Oil.
Finalist prizes included Seton Hall University scholarships; the first-place winner also received a $2,500 cash prize and the second-place winner received a $1,000 cash prize. Three honorable mentions received gift certificates. Following the competition, a reception was held in the finalists' honor, enabling them to meet with university officials and have the opportunity to network and receive valuable advice for their start-ups with the judges, who are corporate executives and successful entrepreneurs.
Aepelbacher, who is interested in pursuing a degree in engineering, joined the competition as part of a school project. He really enjoyed the opportunity to practice public speaking and shared that he would enjoy extending his winning concept to the professional sports industry.
"This was a great experience. I am really proud that my work paid off. All the pitches were great," said Aepelbacher.
Left, Susan Scherreik and Stillman School Dean Joyce Strawser congratulate Ian Aepelbacher.
The 10 high school "sharks" presented five-minute pitches, followed by five minutes of questions from the independent judge panel comprised of alumni and entrepreneurs. The competition judges included Beatriz (Betty) Manetta, M.S.I.B. '98, Founder, President and CEO, Argent Associates and Asociar LLC; Gary Wolfe '71, Founder, CEO and former Owner of Wolfe Roofing and Sheet Metal Inc.; Darrell Gunter '81, President and CEO, Gunter Media Group, and University Adjunct Professor; Sunny Bathla '00/M.B.A.'15, Founder, OSB Consulting, and Vice-President, Virtusa Corporation; and Patrick Burd '18, Founder, Classic Soccer Cleats.
"At Seton Hall, we're ahead of the curve in setting the standard to help the next generation of entrepreneurs be able to apply themselves and become winners. It's important for them to start early and learn how to do pitches because more and more of these kids are starting to become entrepreneurs. They need funding and the best way to get funding is you have to be really good at a pitch. That is key for them," said Manetta, herself a Seton Hall University Entrepreneur Hall of Fame Inductee (2015).
The High School Pirates Pitch is based on the Center's highly successful College Pirates Pitch Competition. The initiative is geared to teaching high school students entrepreneurship basics and idea generation as well as recognizing and rewarding students with outstanding entrepreneurial know-how. Bringing them to Seton Hall's campus also exposes them to one of the nation's top business leadership programs.
"This was a very exciting contest. We hosted an extremely impressive group of young entrepreneurs who shared their innovative spirit, creativity and passion. These young people are determined to take their talent to make the world a better place through their entrepreneurial efforts," said Susan Scherreik, founding director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.
This tournament also celebrated Global Entrepreneurship Week activities taking place around the world from November 18 through 24, 2019. More than 200 applicants from 23 states as well as Canada, Pakistan, Egypt and China submitted their original ideas. The inventive and resourceful high school finalists put forth outstanding business concepts or already have businesses, either for profit or in the social entrepreneurship area.
Alessandra Antonacci (honorable mention), a Staten Island, NY senior at Fontbonne Hall Academy for The Acupressure Socks.
Spencer Ghiraldini, a Park Ridge, NJ senior at Park Ridge High School for Fan View virtual reality headset.
Jessica Huang (honorable mention), a Morris Plains, NJ junior from Parsippany Troy Hills High School for her Fahrenheit Sensor car safety seat alert.
Atishay Jain, a Downington, PA junior at Downington Stem Academy pitching Edu-Nav.
Rushikesh Manche, a Bridgewater, NJ senior from Bridgewater-Raritan High School pitching 16stepstoa1600 tutoring system.
Mia Masturzo (honorable mention), a Mills Valley, CA sophomore from Marin Catholic High School pitching Mia.paintss on Instagram.
Carter Slifer, a Scotch Plains, NJ senior at Fanwood High School for fortniteclips, his gaming sector strategy business.
Aiyana Williams, a Plainfield, NJ senior at Union Catholic High School for Spice Tower, her specialized digital spice rack.